Earning an Online Doctorate in International Business

To adapt to the changes in technology -- and help businesses thrive -- professionals with a generalist MBA can earn an online Ph.D. in international business. These doctoral degrees require advanced critical thinking and research skills, and prepare graduates to be leaders in a rapidly changing field. In fact, the number of learners seeking doctoral-level business degrees from schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) rose nearly six percent around the world between 2011 and 2016. This guide outlines how completing an online doctorate in international business can impact salary potential, the ways to pay for a program, and the coursework generally required in a doctoral program.

Why Get a Doctorate in International Business?

Pursuing Specialization

Professionals can specialize in specific industries through an online Ph.D. program in international business. Degree candidates can use their dissertations to research industry trends and identify real-world solutions that companies or industries can implement. For example, learners who wants to specialize in manufacturing can research and write a thesis on ways to improve efficiency in factories. Degree candidates can also specialize in business functions like logistics, executive management, or human resources.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Earning a Ph.D. can lead to numerous career opportunities. A terminal degree shows employers that a candidate is at the top of the business field, which can lead to upper-management and executive-level positions. Earning an online Ph.D. in international business also qualifies candidates to work in academia as professors. Graduates may even start their own businesses or consult for other companies.

Online Learning Technology

Learners who enroll in online Ph.D. programs in international business take advantage of the latest educational technology. Students can log on to live video conferences with their classmates and professors, giving them chances to network with other professionals and learn from one another. Classes may also cover some of the latest issues facing businesses around the world, and introduce professionals to the latest information that companies need to thrive in the global environment.

What's the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a DBA in International Business?

Students who want to earn terminal degrees in international business can choose between Ph.D. or doctorate of business administration (DBA). Both degrees require rigorous studying and dedication, but they have significant differences. Ph.D. programs tend to focus on research, theory, and the development of new techniques; therefore, learners conduct studies and develop new business theories based on their findings. Conversely, DBA programs explore the administration of management theories. Due to the nature of the degrees, students in Ph.D. programs tend to be more self-led, while DBAs offer a more structured curricula.

Ph.D. graduates primarily work as professors and researchers, though some also consult for highly specialized businesses or government organizations. DBA and Ph.D. graduates alike also work as managers or consultants.

Prerequisites for Online Doctorate in International Business Programs

Schools that offer online Ph.D. programs in international business set unique admissions standards for candidates; however, admissions requirements vary by school. For example, most schools consider a combination of work experience, entrance exam scores, previous college work, professional recommendations, essays, and interviews. Some schools may place more weight on some of these factors than others when making their decision, while others may consider all of these factors equally. Meeting the basic requirements does not guarantee admissions.

  • Work Experience: Students can earn a Ph.D in international business online without work experience; however, some schools design their programs specifically for working professionals and may require candidates to have several years of business experience. Students may wish to gain experience even when schools do not require it, as it can give them insights that guide their research.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Many schools require Ph.D. applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores from the previous five years. Universities often do not post minimum scores for these tests, and some schools make it optional to send exam scores. If learners recently took these exams to get into master’s programs, they can use the same scores to apply to Ph.D. programs.
  • Coursework: Ph.D. programs require candidates to hold a master’s degree from an accredited university. Some business schools only accept applicants with graduate degrees in business, while others take candidates from any educational background. Typically, students must hold a minimum GPA of 3.0 from their master’s degrees, but some schools may require even higher grades.
  • Recommendations: Most business schools require Ph.D. candidates to submit 2-3 letters of recommendation. These letters usually come from people who can speak to the candidate’s academic and work ethic, such as previous graduate advisors and supervisors. Personal friends and family members should not write these letters.
  • Essays: Programs often require students to submit essays that detail why they want to earn a Ph.D. in international business online, and how their prior education and qualifications prepare them to benefit from a rigorous program of study. Schools may also require academic writing samples from a candidate’s master’s degree that demonstrate their academic readiness.
  • Interviews: Doctoral programs may use interviews in the admissions process for a variety of reasons. For example, some universities schedule interviews between faculty and applicants as a regular step in the admissions process. Meanwhile, other schools only interview candidates who make the final rounds of consideration, and some may only schedule interviews if they have concerns about a candidate.
  • International Students: Students from countries other than the United States must meet the same admission requirements as any other candidate -- and sometimes more. For example, non-native English speakers must pass English proficiency tests that prove they are ready to study in the language at this level.

How Much Can I Make With a Doctorate in International Business?

Earning an online Ph.D. in international business can be a lucrative investment. PayScale reports that professionals with this degree earn, on average, $91,000 per year. This is significantly higher than the mean wage for all business professionals, which is about $76,910 annually. The amount that a graduate of an international business Ph.D. can earn also depends on the type of career they pursue. Chief financial officers, for instance, can earn about $130,000 per year. The table below highlights a few of the common career paths Ph.D. students pursue in the field.

Traditional Careers for International Business

Careers Stats Description

Postsecondary Teachers

Median Pay: $78,470

Job Growth: 15%

These educators lead college and university classes in business. In some schools, they also conduct research and publish their findings in industry journals. Candidates who are great communicators and enjoy regular teaching and research can excel in these positions. The BLS expects this sector to grow much faster than all other occupations.

Top Executives

Median Pay: $104,980

Job Growth: 8%

This category includes chief executive officers, chief financial officers, and chief operations officers. These high-level executives make decisions that affect everyone in their organizations and set goals for their employees to meet. As such, they must have a sharp business sense, excellent management skills, and several years of business experience.

Management Analysts

Median Pay: $83,610

Job Growth: 14%

Also called management consultants, these professionals review the management structures inside organizations and make recommendations to improve efficiency or employee morale. A Ph.D. in international business provides a theoretical and industry-specific knowledge to thrive in these roles. These professionals must have excellent communication, mathematical, and analytical skills.

Operations Research Analysts

Median Pay: $83,390

Job Growth: 27%

These in-demand professionals use their considerable research skills to analyze an organization’s operations and make recommendations for changes. They use statistical analysis and predictive modeling to show clients how their businesses can grow when they implement recommended changes. Candidates for these positions must have strong mathematical skills.

Survey Researchers

Median Pay: $57,700

Job Growth: 2%

Many Ph.D. graduates go into research, including as survey researchers. These professionals design and implement surveys that collect data about people in specific situations. They analyze the results of the survey and publish any significant findings. They can work for universities, government organizations, and nonprofit firms.

Source: PayScale/BLS

Nontraditional Careers

A Ph.D. in international business provides graduates skills that translate to numerous other careers. Employers look for candidates to possess strong business acumen, management skills, and an understanding of mathematical analysis -- all traits that Ph.D. programs in international business can cultivate. Although the jobs below are not typical for these candidates, their skills allow them to take on these roles.

Careers Stats Description

Financial Managers

Median Pay: $127,990

Job Growth: 19%

Skills Overlapped: Business acumen, mathematical analysis, and management

Financial managers monitor and analyze a company’s financial dealings and set budgeting goals. These professionals must understand business and economic theories, as well as accounting and business analysis. They often report to the chief financial officers and make recommendations to the board on ways to grow the organization.

Budget Analysts

Median Pay: $76,220

Job Growth: 7%

Skills Overlapped: Statistical analysis and business theory

These professionals work with other managers within the company to develop budgets for individual projects and departments. They take a company’s overarching goals and hiring needs into consideration in making budgeting decisions. They may also make recommendations on areas in which the company can reduce or reallocate funding.

Training and Development Managers

Median Pay: $111,340

Job Growth: 10%

Skills Overlapped: Management and business acumen

Training and development managers work in human resources departments and ensure all employees are prepared to do their jobs effectively. They design training and onboarding programs and may also teach some of the courses. These professionals also maintain training budgets and write progress reports.

Administrative Services Managers

Median Pay: $96,180

Job Growth: 10%

Skills Overlapped: Business theory and communication

These professionals keep business offices running with tasks like facility maintenance, mail services, scheduling, and record keeping. Administrative service managers must be able to see the whole picture and organize tasks as they arise. They may also manage things like office safety, computer upkeep, and policy implementation.

Source: PayScale/BLS

Paying for a Doctorate in International Business Online

Earning an online Ph.D. in international business is a significant financial investment, but learners can explore numerous sources for their education. Business-specific grants and scholarships allow degree candidates to pay their tuition bills without going into debt, while some employers may pay for nearly all of an employee's tuition costs. Students should also compare tuition rates between schools. Some universities even offer accelerated programs that reduce the amount of time and expenses it takes to earn a degree.

Scholarships for Online International Business Students

Scholarships are some of the best financial aid opportunities for business students at all levels. Schools, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses all offer scholarships to learners. Some awards require applicants to have specific qualifications, such as certain GPAs, ethnicities, or work experience. The list below is not exhaustive, but does represent the different kinds of scholarships you may be able to find.

What to Expect from an Online International Business Program

In general, students pursuing an online Ph.D. in international business have up to seven years to complete their degree: this includes two years to complete coursework, and 1-5 years to submit their dissertations. Students begin their programs with online coursework in topics such as business theory and research methods; often these classes include live video conferences with professors and classmates to facilitate discussion. Once course requirements have been satisfied, students then complete comprehensive exams, begin research for their dissertations, write their final papers, and defend their ideas to a committee.

Major Milestones

  1. Complete Business Coursework

    Learners take the business-related courses they need and must pass with the school’s required GPA. Degree candidates must finish these courses before working on their dissertation.

  2. Complete Research Courses

    Degree candidates complete all research classes, including courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods and statistical analysis. Schools require students to complete this before writing a dissertation.

  3. Internship

    Interns work under the direct supervision of professionals in the field, which can include professors or business executives.

  4. Comprehensive Exam

    Before moving forward with dissertation work, some universities require degree candidates to prove their business acumen and research understanding with an exam.

  5. Dissertation Research

    Ph.D. candidates conduct studies that shape their thesis papers. They may conduct a meta-analysis of previous research or do surveys of their own.

  6. Dissertation Defense

    Once degree candidates complete their final dissertations, they give presentations about their findings to the program’s faculty. The faculty then decides if the candidates can graduate.


The best online Ph.D. programs in international business have unique classes for students to explore. The courses listed below are common in these programs.

Social Science Research Methods

Students in these courses learn effective research methods, specific techniques, and research theory. They also review and analyze research papers, and use the skills from these classes to conduct studies for their dissertations.

Research Design

These courses teach degree candidates to design all types of studies in scientifically sound ways. Students explore common research flaws and how to avoid them, as well as learn to solve problems as they arise.


These classes combine mathematics and economic theory, and students use statistical methods to test statistical models, make predictions, and understand economic relationships. These skills can be directly applied to dissertation work and within finance for businesses.

Social Psychology

These courses explore how people interact with one another in different settings. Students use this knowledge to understand management theories and organizational behavior. Managers, executives, and human resources professionals all use some form of social psychology in their positions.

Global Business Strategies

Degree candidates explore the ways globalization, cultural differences, and legal issues affect international businesses. They read current literature on the subject and discuss theories on global business strategies.

Degree Timelines

Students can choose between part-time, full-time, and accelerated programs -- depending on which options the school offers. The table below outlines the impact each of these choices has on the time it takes to complete one's degree.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description


5 years

These programs only require learners to take one or two classes per semester. After they complete coursework, students can take up to five years to finish their dissertation. Part-time programs offer great options for degree candidates who work or raise children while working on their degrees.


3-5 years

For the first two years, learners take three courses per semester. Then they take one to three years to complete their dissertations. This option is ideal for learners who do not work and can take full-time classes. This can also be great for students who work as teacher assistants on campus.


3 years

Accelerated online Ph.D. programs in international business often follow cohort models in which all students take the same classes together. These programs are ideal for students who can take courses full-time and want to graduate quickly. The courses last about two years. Students then have an additional year to complete their dissertations.

Licenses and Certifications

Graduates of online Ph.D. in international business degrees can pursue additional professional certifications that set them apart in competitive job markets. While these credentials are optional, they can help professionals distinguish themselves as experts in a specific area of international business. Professional organizations often award these certifications, so employers know and trust these credentials. Candidates study for exams through the organizations and may need to take tests. Below are just a few of the common certifications graduates can earn.

  • Certified International Trade Professional The Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) provides this certification for international business professionals at all levels of work experience. Learners take courses from FITT in international trade or complete business programs through partner universities, and then complete at least one year of business work experience.
  • Certified Global Business Professional North American Small Business International Trade Educators (NASBITE) grants this world-recognized certification to professionals who pass the 165-question exam. The test includes questions on global business management, supply chain management, global marketing, and trade finance. The certification is relevant for executives and consultants.
  • Certified Business Process Leadership The CBPL is the highest level of certification offered by the Association of Business Process Management, and executives can earn this credential to set themselves apart as leaders in global business. Candidates have three hours to complete a 130-question, multiple choice exam.
  • Diversity & Inclusion Certificate Program Offered by the American Management Association, managers and human resource professionals at all levels can earn this credential to prove their dedication to diversity in the workforce. Candidates take a three-day course and complete a capstone project.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations offers certification programs, as well as several other career growth opportunities. Members can earn continuing education credits to keep their certifications current, and stay in the loop on current issues in international business. They can also network with like-minded professionals, attend annual conferences, and access job boards. Some of the following resources also provide help for students and recent graduates. Below are some of the common organizations and resources for international business professionals and students.

  • American Management Association The AMA offers training in many areas of business, including analytics, finance, and project management. Members can access skills assessments, business whitepapers, and webinars.
  • Forum for International Trade Training This organization focuses on trade professionals, but all international business managers can join. FITT members enjoy access to educational resources, professional development courses, and professional networks. Members can also hire certified speakers and attend exclusive events.
  • American Association of University Professors Graduates who work in academia can join the AAUP to connect with other professors and researchers. Members gain access to toolkits, professional networks, webinars, publications, and professional insurance.
  • North American Small Business International Trade Educators NABSITE members enjoy annual conferences, certification opportunities, networking resources, awards, and continuing education. Professors, business professionals, and government employees can leverage this network.
  • Academy of International Business The AIB welcomes researchers and professionals in international business. Members enjoy access to annual meetings around the world, journal subscriptions, newsletters, and a career center. Local chapters allow members to network with nearby colleagues.
  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business The AACSB is the primary accrediting body for business schools. Students can use this to find the top online Ph.D. programs in international business, and the organization also offers resources for graduates who become educators.
  • Ph.D. Completion This website provides Ph.D. students resources for completing their dissertations. Students access writing resources, boot camps, and two-day challenges. Online accountability groups allow degree candidates to check in on one another.
  • American Educational Research Association AERA is a leading provider of dissertation resources such as funding and research grants. Members can also access meetings, scholarly journals, continuing education resources, and policy advocates.
  • EndNote This software helps degree candidates with some of the most difficult parts of dissertation writing, such as citations and searching for references. Academics in many areas of study use EndNote to organize their workflows.
  • Education Resources Information Center The Institute of Education Sciences maintains ERIC, which is a free resource. Learners can access scholarly articles on their dissertation topics, and filter their searches based on peer-reviewed articles and those available with the full text.